Breaking from childhood friends easier said than done

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Colts tight end Dwayne Allen drew rave reviews last week for his frank warning to this year’s rookies regarding the dangers of not separating from pre-NFL friends who could get the rookies in to trouble.

While Allen makes plenty of sense, it’s far from easy for a pro athlete to turn his back on the people he knows and trusts.

Warts or not, a pro athlete’s friends often trace back to the days long before fame and money arrived at the front door.  They’ve been there through the good times and bad, and the athlete usually has a strong emotional attachment to them.

“A lot of people are afraid of the words, ‘Oh man, you different,'” Allen told the rookies.  And Allen is right, because those words typically are a sign that the friendship is in jeopardy.  Most people don’t want to lose friendships they value, and they don’t want to create the impression that they’ve abandoned people they love like brothers.

Making things even harder for a pro athlete who decides to sever ties with his childhood friends is the prospect of replacing them when fame and money may attract new friends who don’t really care about the player, but who want to sit in the splash zone of the money and the fame.

Then there’s the fact that rookies are still kids, in many ways.  Naive, gullible, inexperienced kids.  Telling them to abandon their friends is like telling them to ditch their families.

For plenty of  players, friends and family are intertwined, making it even harder to get away.

Ultimately, there’s a fine line between an athlete protecting himself and behaving selfishly.  Players whose childhood friends could be bad influences basically need to be selfish enough to tolerate being accused of selfishness, and sufficiently cold hearted to walk away from people they care about.

67 responses to “Breaking from childhood friends easier said than done

  1. When I got out of the Navy many of my childhood friends were doing nothing, living at home with mom still. I didn’t want to but I had to cut them off. We didn’t have much in common anymore. On occasion we get together, but with friends that aren’t doing anything, or not trying to do anything (different when you graduated and they are 2 years away or something) just distance yourself.

    But when you have money and hangers on are a-plenty it is easier said than done.

  2. Good points. But, you forgot two.

    (a) If you leave your old friends for new ones. What happens when your career is over/cut short and the money goes along with the new friends? It’s not exactly easy to run back to your old friends.

    (b) It’s a tough feeling to be the one of a large group that made it. Especially, when you know what your fellow friends are going through. You feel like you owe them some things.

    I’m not a professional athlete but I go through a lot of this decision making. But, it’s only easier if you have 1 or 2 of the friends who are doing good things. But, it doesn’t help when they all are a bad influence.

  3. Uh, no crap!

    Unfortunately the unspoken truth is that most these “gifted” kids grew up in broken environments with no real guidance to instill common sense, how to be a decent human, etc. By the time their gifts begin to show they’re folks there to take advantage of them for the almighty dollar. This mostly is the schools and coaches that coddle these kids through early stages of life for a winning record.

    Society is screwed the way we glorify half these people and overpay them while real contributors to society are scrapping pennies to get by.

    College and Professional sports needs to change the culture and start holding players to the standards us common folk have to live by. Fail not one, but two drug tests or get a DUI and see if your company is going to keep you employed.

  4. Tough spot for these kids hitting the big time. It not only is a situation of changes for the players with all the trials and lessons through the game, but a new understanding of themselves that is challenging them to new emotional intelligence. On the other side are the attachments to what they new and the identities that held them together. It takes conviction for these guys to see the signs and not ignore their instincts about relationships, but I don’t know you can teach that.

  5. Most of us have done this in our lives. How many friends from grammar school or even high school do you still see on a regular basis? Very few, I would guess.

    As a Colts fan, it’s hard not to gush about Dwayne Allen. The guy was solid on the field and off during his rookie year.

  6. Mike, I agree with what you’re saying in some circumstances. Yeah, a lot of times these guys need to get away from bad influences back home and you’re right, it’s easier said than done in certain situations.

    I think the problem in the case of Hernandez is that while he’s the NFL star, it’s also HIM that’s the bad guy and the bad influence. I don’t we consider that scenario enough. We always consider the athlete to be some babe in the woods, and never consider the possibility that sometimes, they are the bad guy.

  7. Okay, but there’s a big jump between “Let’s hang out & party” and “Let’s go kill someone.”

    Maybe it’s cold, but I don’t have extra sympathy for a kid who’s suddenly a millionaire having to figure that out.

  8. Who’s that calling me? Oh that guy? Na he gets voicemail. I don’t want to talk to that guy. He is trouble.

  9. Once your “friend” asks you for ten grand to pay off a gambling debt, you drop him like Wes Welker drops footballs in the Super Bowl.

    And you don’t look back. That’s a line you don’t cross.

  10. I have to disagree with this….

    All the money in the world can’t replace the memories I had growing up with my friends…. catching frogs, playing baseball in the street, hide and go seek, riding bikes on a makeshift BMX track in a dirt field, from morning til the sun went down, all the while dreading the call from mom “it’s time to come in”. Man, we didn’t have the internet, super-realistic video games, ipods, ipads, smartphones where we were always connected.

    ….but what we did have was each other….and that’s all that mattered.

  11. No it’s not, I’ve done it several times.

    You get drafted into the NFL, You’re from Miami and you now play for Seattle, how many of your old friends have the money to stalk you in Seattle?

    Athletes just like everyone else make their own decisions on who they associate with. It might hurt some feelings, but it’s a sad fact of life that once you become rich, almost everyone will be out to use you.

  12. I would have to agree that it is harder to sever ties with friends you grew up. But in the same token, you have to start growing up and understanding you need to surround yourself with people you can count on and not the ones that are only there with their hands out looking for something.

  13. If a friend of mine were to say to me, “Oh man, you different”, I would probably wonder what happened to my friends’ grammar.

  14. So basically….get rid of all your hood rat friends from the inner city, quite sure Peyton Manning doesn’t have to abandoned his friends….

  15. More liberal BS..please average Americans do it all the time. If you want to keep it real that’s a choice. If athlete’s want to live a double life they make that choice themselves. Nobody forced Hernandez to keep his criminal friends. Hernandez and people like him never changed themselves. That is the problem.

  16. If all is what it certainly appears to be, I don’t blame the Aaron Hernandez deal on “loyalty to childhood friends” and “bad influences.” This is none of that.

    Hernandez, it appears, ends friendships HIMSELF – permanently – with any of several weapon systems. This also includes the guy he shot in the face – another “friend” of Hernandez’s.

    As it looks now, Hernandez may himself be the worst influence among whomever he hangs out with – and fault/blame/culpability in this(these) instance(s) falls straight on his shoulders for acts he inspired independently.

    Again, we need to see where the facts take us – but it’s looking pretty bad for Hernandez so far. Real real real bad.

  17. I cant imagine it would be easy to say the words, but a true friend would understand. Friend or not, you cant bring certain types of people along for the ride, since there are a LOT of folks who simply cant/wont grow up and walk away from the stupid things they do with their lives.

  18. Sometimes it is the football player who IS the bad influence . Heck more often than not the money allows them to be more of a leader in these situations

  19. Hernandez better get accustomed to assuming the pose in that picture – bent over 90 degrees with another man’s hands around his waist.

  20. Is it asking too much that we hold a guy accountable for his own actions? Frankly, I’m tired of hearing of a multi-millionaire’s indiscretions (or worse) being the result of his childhood buddies or the wrong crowd.

    If I was an NFL star, you best believe my crew would do what I wanted, not what they wanted. There’s no way I’d tag along with them and do something I didn’t want to do. If they gave me grief, I’d tell them, “see ya. I’m going to hang out with my fellow multi-millionares from now on. I gave you guys a chance.”

  21. Just a thought here. Loyalty is a great thing, but isn’t it a two way street? Your friends who you remain loyal too should want to protect you from the pitfalls of fame & fortune. They shouldn’t be one of the pitfalls.

  22. Have not all of us let go of ties with some of the people we grew up with because the obligations of being a responsible adult dictated that we needed to? Let’s cut this nonsense about special exemptions from accountability for pampered athletes.

  23. Valid points. Many times we consider these guys adults the minute they hit a nfl field. I sure as he!! wasn’t an adult after graduating college. Put millions of dollars in my bank account (at that time) and I probably would have been even less of an adult.

    But I still wouldn’t have killed, shot, and or maimed between 1 & 6 people.

  24. The worst thing that can happen to a player of “questionable” character is to be drafted by a team in a near proximity to where they grew up. It makes it much easier for these “hood rat” friends to become a part of the posse. I’m not saying that Aaron Hernandez would have stayed out of trouble if he had been drafted by Denver or Seattle, but it would have made the transition away from his buddies from home easier.

  25. Hernandez is just a bad person, it had nothing to do with the company he kept. Maybe “he” was the bad influence on his friends and they would have been better served staying in the hood and away from the burbs.

    Ironic to say the least.

    What a POS.

  26. Aaron Hernandez wishes he had left his rat buddy Carlos Ortiz behind! How much money and dope and cars and clothes did Hernandez give to his crew of losers that he took with him. All of these rookies should learn a big lesson!

  27. I don’t see how come it would be so difficult to break away from those people who want to keep you from being successful in your career. its one thing if they were siblings or close family, its an entirely different thing if they are just people you grewup with in the neighborhood. just my opinion here its sounds like an excuse.

  28. Total crap…. Most all of us as we grow up drift away from childhood friends. Even in small towns you see them here and there but they have become an acquaintance. Stick to football as you seem to know nothing about human nature. Also how about stop with the kid crap . . . That is an excuse and we are the only country that calls young adults kids. At 21 I bought a home (no co-signer) started my family , worked full time, played in bands and now enjoy two great sons that are now fathers also.

  29. The other option is to be different and to use that to help your old friends become better people.

  30. I’m not even a athletic and I was able to breakaway from the friends that were headed in a negative path and find away to stay good with the ones that became responsible. It is hard to notice that path you may join and I got lucky enough to see it before it got bad. Some ppl think life is just a big party and more worried about there self. Everyone needs to make that realization at some point from the ppl that will be the to help in a drop of the hat or the ppl that want to use you when your down.

  31. It’s not rocket science. Sit down with all your old friends and tell them that you can’t be effing around anymore. Lookk at what happened to ah. Youll find out who your true friends are by the ones who support you and look to help keep you out of trouble.

  32. For all of you who believe that this problem is a problem of young black athletes here are two variants for you.

    “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!”

    President Warren G Harding

    “Too many pigs for the teets”

    President A. Lincoln ‘When asked why he looked so dour a mere 10 days after being elected president after being overrun with ‘Friends’ looking for jobs with the government”

  33. blackandbluedivision says:
    Jul 3, 2013 11:56 PM
    Good points. But, you forgot two.

    (a) If you leave your old friends for new ones. What happens when your career is over/cut short and the money goes along with the new friends? It’s not exactly easy to run back to your old friends.

    (b) It’s a tough feeling to be the one of a large group that made it. Especially, when you know what your fellow friends are going through. You feel like you owe them some things.

    I’m not a professional athlete but I go through a lot of this decision making. But, it’s only easier if you have 1 or 2 of the friends who are doing good things. But, it doesn’t help when they all are a bad influence.

    It’s a risk worth taking when there are millions of reason to ditch Drequan your boy from the old hood who was selling crack while you were at college training and pushing yourself for a legitimate lucrative career. How can you maintain a relationship with bad influences from your childhood when your lifestyles are so completely different now.

    Plus an advantage of college is all the connections you make, that dosent get mentioned enough. So if you do happen to loose it all you still have those connections to fall back on. Boosters, coaches, roommates, old teammates. It’s not like you go from the streets to making millions in the NFL. There is an important step in between.

  34. Let’s be real, in real life you cut loose friends
    who will take you down, you just have to be
    smart to know who they are.

    Benjamin Button did it the right way, too bad
    we all can’t do it that way.

  35. Good article…but rookies are the only ones who are just kids.

    Lots of vets on their second contract are really still kids too. I mean, seems like we forget that most vets are what, 25, 26, 27 or so? That’s still young. Really young.

    Who knows anything when they are in their 20’s? I didn’t.

  36. These kids have to realize that if someone is really your homie/family and loves you, they would not try to put you in a position to lose everything you have worked so hard for. So, it’s not that you have to cut off everyone you grew up with, just those who are selfish enough to put you in a position to lose everything for their own personal gain.

  37. How about the NFL start working to improve these athletes when they are young. Start investing in our youth by making part of the NLF gig going to elementary schools and setting an example for these youngsters to follow.

    It is far too late to change a grown man. These rookies will still hang out with the people who will lead them into trouble. The time to start is when these future adults are 6 and 7 years old. It doesn’t matter if they end up playing pro football, if they are reached at a young enuogh age and mentors lead by example, we could eliminate many problems in the near future.

    As well as all of that, the NFL needs to set an example that there will be zero tolerance for gang banger activity and crime within the ranks. Hard to lead by example as a brand when the example is murder, drugs, rape and other violent crime.

  38. It’s part of evolving as a human being. Logically one would stay away from someone or something isn’t good for you. Unfortunately logic does not exist in some cultures.

  39. You know what’s worse than losing your old troublemaking friends? Losing your multimillion dollar job, losing your freedom by going to jail and losing your life from a drive by shooting from a rival gang trying to shoot your old high school pal in the passanger seat.

  40. A good friend of mine from college made it into the NBA (played for 5 years). When it became apparent that he was very very likely to be drafted in the first round, he was telling me stories about old “friends” calling him up and wanting to hang out, just like that or already start asking for money for their rap career or business. He grew up in the ghetto and knew who was trouble and who was not. If you wanted to hang out with him, his first rule was that you could not ask for/ demand money, and that included relatives. He later told me he lost a lot of “friends” but that was ok. He moved on with his life and is still comfortably living.

  41. Uhhh, this happens all the time actually…

    happened to me when i joined the military and came back home for the first time…and i’m pretty sure this happens on a daily basis to people first coming home from college/military/anything that’s bettering their lives and gives them a fresh perspective of the life they left

  42. “Most people don’t want to lose friendships they value, and they don’t want to create the impression that they’ve abandoned people they love like brothers.”

    If they can make a half decent conclusion that these old friends will cost them a contract worth millions, then they can break away. Do like Ray Lewis did, although a little late, by paying these friends a one time money gift and tell them to get lost. Move your family to a better place and establish new friendships who don’t have a criminal record or snort cocaine. Keep your nose clean and have good lawyers and positive relationship with the law to keep the pests away. So lets see:

    A) New friends, a better life with no regrets
    B) Keep old friend and pay the price for what these hoodlums do.

    We now know what Hernandez values most. He is lucky Mass does not have the death sentence.

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